Sharp and shrewd - a sterling British play
Rowan Atkinson takes up the starring role in Quartermaine’s Terms, making his first appearance in a play in 25 years. Atkinson was more recently seen treading the West End boards as Fagin in the recent revival of the musical Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane where he was inundated with critical acclaim and sold out performances.
Quartermaine's Terms is set at a Cambridge school for teaching English to foreigners - over a period of two years in the 1960s. It follows the interrelationships of seven teachers at the school with St John Quartermaine at the heart of the group. Though Quartermaine is an utterly hopeless teacher, he is nevetheless a prominent figure in the staff-room; always available to listen to the problems of his self-obsessed colleagues. With the arrival of a new headmaster at the school, however, he finds his position there jeopardised.
Quartermaine’s Terms is a quintessentially British play and Simon Gray pokes gentle fun at the British penchant for “muddling through” and “not complaining” – coupled with a tendency not to take firm action when necessary. The verbal style is characteristically British with form and euphemism dominant and with real issues constantly being ducked out of politeness. When clouded signals are offered (especially signals that suggest a character needs help) they are so obscure that it is possible for others to ignore them – and they usually do.
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